December 25, 2020
By Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD, Senior Minister
On this Christmas Day, my prayer is that you will unwrap God’s gift of encouragement. This year has included many challenges. You do not need me to recount them all. But, be encouraged!
The story of Jesus’ birth emerges in a world full of anxiety and discomfort. We tend to focus on singing angels and awestruck shepherds. However, on the night of Jesus’ birth cry, the world was a dark and scary place. Jesus was born in a land where strife and suffering were commonplace. People were plotting to overthrow the government.
Racial prejudice, oppression, social blindness and the absence of compassion were normative. The disparity between rich and the poor was expansive. Political leaders were legalistic, manipulative and punished anyone who questioned them. Religious life focused on bending God’s truth more than expressing God’s love.
Jesus’ relatives and his nation’s citizens were under the control of a foreign power. Every footprint of Joseph and Mary between Nazareth and Bethlehem was in dust ruled by Rome. Their ultimate arrival in Bethlehem to be registered as descendants of David was tumultuous. The cause of their journey, during a late-term pregnancy, was due to an unfair tax system. Rome made these citizens pay taxes, although the people had few freedoms. When Joseph and Mary finally arrived in Bethlehem, they found no comfortable lodging.
A kind innkeeper opened his stable to them which was most likely a dank cave. Into this darkness, the Light of the world arrived. (continued on next page) But, be encouraged, beloved, God’s Light always arrives in the darkness. John’s Gospel begins with these familiar words: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
You have been so very faithful this year. You have cared for one another and expressed compassion to our neighbors. You have prayed for and encouraged one another. You have been responsible for your commitments and honored our St. John’s church covenant. You have reflected the light of God in places where darkness needed to be transformed. So, unwrap God’s gift of encouragement. If God can bring light into the world in which Joseph and Mary lived, God has a light for you.
The message of Christmas is this: God’s light shows up in dark times. When people are afraid, confused and abused, God’s light brings hope, peace, joy and love. Even if all you can hear is a baby’s cry, take heart, for there is a new world being born.
“God’s light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not, has not, will not, cannot overcome it.”